Tuesday 5 November 2013

around the table

Around the table this evening we are two gardiens, four mountaineers, one walking guide, and me, a linguist.

There is plenty of good food, good wine and goodwill. Moments such as these make staying the night in a réfuge worth the hard slog up the hill.

When the soup and wine inevitably run dry, the words continue to flow. The conversation, as is often the case in a refuge, is excitingly multilingual and diverse, flowing effortlessly from French to English and back to French. No need to be formal in situations like this, a friendly tu is enough to do away with any shyness.

Where have you come from? What are you doing tomorrow?

The mountaineers continue to talk as the tables are cleared and wiped clean. They form small groups, huddling around maps and guidebooks, or warming themselves by the stove, sharing stories and advice.

We leave the mountaineers to it, joining Boris and Pauline in the kitchen as we help them attack the mountain of washing up the others have left in their wake.

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